Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Perceptions of Others

In an upscale park several people were out walking their dogs. A homeless man walked by with his dog clinging by his side. The dog owners stopped and looked at him thinking, “Poor dog, the guy can't even take care of himself much less a pet.”

The dogs all looked at the homeless guy's dog and thought, “Lucky bastard, I get a twenty minute walk on a good day. That guy has been on a walk for like six months straight. Plus I get yelled at if I get in the trash, his owner joins him.”

Some of the dogs moved away from their humans in embarrassment. Some looked them in the eye to let them know, “You may not be perfect, but I know you're trying.” Some imagined how someday they might have an owner like that.

I really don't mean to, but for some reason I tend to have characters with mental disorders. This might be a reflection of my life as crazy people have always flocked to me. It might be because I look at people a little different than most. Eleven of my last thirteen employers have gone to jail, that does show something about my ability to judge people.

One constant feedback that I got on my novel, MIND THIEF, is wondering why the heroine, who suffers from bipolar schizophrenia and aspergers syndrome, likes my main character. What could a great girl like that see in an honor student in a private college who dreams of setting up multi-trillion dollar industries in space.

The problem was I looked at the heroine through the eyes of my main character. Just like the dogs in the park looked at the homeless guy's dog in the most positive light, I did the same with my heroine.

I did this for a few reasons, only one of which is excusable from a story telling point of view.

First, without her my main character couldn't save the world. So I needed to show all her positive aspects.

Second, Even though she is “bark at the moon” insane, I didn't want her to be a stereotype crazy person.

Third and most unforgivable, I really liked her.

It is like writing a story about the homeless guy's dog from the POV of the dogs in the park. You wouldn't know why the bastard humans are trying to “save” him, or how growing up seeing all every human looking down on him with pity and contempt might fill his little heart with self-doubt.

So now I'm going through and trying to get the narration show her like the dog owners in the park see the homeless guy's dog, while my main character looks at her like the dog's in the park view the same dog. That way the reader can see why she might get defensive as the main character is viewing her as perfect, while everyone else she has ever known looks at her as a social pariah.

If I have the talent to show both views of her (All in third person limited) it will make the book even more powerful.

I'm trying to think of any other book that shows both sides of a socially unacceptable person or group, but I can't. Even in ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKCOO'S NEST you started agreeing with the residents and forgetting that they were in there for a reason.

So, what do you think about showing both views of a character? From friends who only see the positive aspects of them and strangers who only see the negative stereotypes?

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